African Disable Group Reviews Disability Laws, Policies

The African Youth with Disabilities Network-Liberia Chapter (AYWDN) Monday began a five-day national forum on revision of policies and Act creating the National Commission on Disability in Liberia.

The review process seeks to compare ideas with the Act that created the Sierra Leone National Commission on disabilities, the Ghana National Commission on disabilities, and other existing laws and policies in favor of persons with disabilities.

Funded by Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), the exercise will also help government in its efforts to close the gap that currently exists between the disabled and non-disabled population with special emphasis on healthcare, education, and improve the public perception about disabilities and their relationship with People With Disabilities (PWDs).

Addressing the opening session, AYWDN Country Coordinator B. William M. Yarsiah revealed that instead of youths with disabilities sitting back and waiting for the state and others to make good for them, they are resolved to take some responsibilities.

Yarsiah warned against criticisms that will derail the revision process as it seeks to provide for a law that will provide for the overall protection of persons living with disabilities.

“We should not sectionalize or focus on who takes credit for the creation of a holistic law that represents the interest of PWDs,” Yarsiah indicated.

He frowned on what he calls the lack of political will by the National Commission on Disability (NCD) in making sure that the voices of persons with disabilities are heard at both the national and international levels.

He recalled that since some sections of the NCD law were amended and forwarded to the National Legislature in 2012, they are still in committee room.

Also in remark, Daintowon Pay-Bayee of the Federation of Liberian Youth and a member of the disable community stressed the preparedness of PWDs to ensuring the inherent dignity remains on course.

She blamed government for giving less attention to issues on PWDs and vowed to ensure that their community is moved from charity and medical to the human rights model that provides for teaching them to fish for themselves.

“All we are getting is lip-service on the employment of qualified disabled  into government,” she added

The forum is being held at the Kakata Kountry Club and is expected to last up to Friday October 27.

It brings together heads of several disable groupings and the head of the National Commission on Disabilities.

AYWDN Liberia Chapter was established as a result of a Steering Committee Strategic Planning and Training Session organized by the Open Society Initiative for East Africa (OSIEA) along with the Open Society Foundation’s Youth Initiative (YI) and Disability Right Initiative (DRI) in Nairobi, Kenya. The Liberia Chapter of the AYWDN was established during a convening of twenty-nine (29) Youth with Disabilities (YWDs) on February 21, 2012 under the auspices of the Association of Disabled Females of Liberia.

The overarching objectives of this project are to review, draft and strengthen existing laws and policies in favor of persons with disabilities for future enactment through constitutional provision for the creation of an inclusive barrier free society where all persons with disabilities will live in dignity exercise their rights and participate in all spheres of life.